Tags: The | Downside | Democracy

The Downside of Democracy

Tuesday, 21 September 2004 12:00 AM

Thus we hear from both parties that people have a “right” to this or that benefit — to healthcare, to education, to a good job, to more retirement income, etc. It doesn’t register to many people these days that our republic was not founded on providing these things to the citizenry.

By encouraging voters to think that their desires are really their rights, career politicians for years have been able to infantilize large groups of people into believing that government largesse is a desirable thing — the more the better.

If the economy is lackluster, then government tax policies will stimulate growth; if unemployment is too high, then the government will “create” good jobs for workers; if people can’t afford prescription drugs, then the government will subsidize them; if schools are bad, then government will “invest” more money in them. And so the wheel turns.

In fact, government is actually quite poor at doing all this, with mountains of evidence showing that it usually makes these situations worse; or at best, only temporarily alleviates conditions, with the negative repercussions put off for future years.

Medicare and Social Security, to name only two such schemes, are already headed for a train wreck in the next decade unless drastic reforms are instituted. Yet the constant media-driven clamor for government to solve some new “crisis” continues unabated.

When political leaders fail to demonstrate leadership, and simply pander to interest groups to stay in office, the whole tenor of government changes. To payback their supporters, legislators increase the public debt with mountains of new spending, encouraging more fragmented groups to demand new rights and benefits for themselves, and fueling a never-ending spiral of out-of-control entitlements.

John Kerry epitomizes this pattern when he shortsightedly boasts that he will quickly extricate U.S. involvement in Iraq so that more money can be spent on all his domestic spending enthusiasms. As happened when the U.S. turned tail in Vietnam, this would be an unmitigated disaster for American foreign policy for years to come, not to mention the very real possibility of emboldening Islamist extremists to ramp up terrorist operations on our own soil.

Rather than examine where these policies will lead us, the national media seems content merely to amplify shouting matches between the candidates and their supporters. Day after day, political hacks and character assassins are tapped by the networks to spew bile against the opposing candidate or party. In a new low, CBS News mounted a partisan hatchet job on President Bush, only to find out that it blew up in their own faces.

Could it be that the apogee of democratic government is already behind us, when previous generations of Americans were more self-reliant, better educated and more informed about serious issues?

Certain writers have predicted that democracy’s historical trajectory has been a retreat from self-government to a state of dependency — where complacent majorities demand ever more non-enumerated rights and services, essentially bankrupting the central government.

The power and immediacy of the media and an unctuous, opportunistic political class have proven very skillful in their ability to manipulate large numbers of the electorate to further the politics of self-gratification.

Our Founding Fathers knew that appealing to mass desires was not always in the best interest of the country as a whole. That’s why they instituted a republican form of government with elected representatives, not a plebiscitary democracy.

Living in a time well before the nineteenth century socialist juggernaut took root, it probably never occurred to them that the American public would allow itself to be bribed.

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Thus we hear from both parties that people have a "right" to this or that benefit - to healthcare, to education, to a good job, to more retirement income, etc.It doesn't register to many people these days that our republic was not founded on providing these things to the...
The,Downside,Democracy
590
2004-00-21
Tuesday, 21 September 2004 12:00 AM
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